IT’S TIME!!! With Eurovision so close I could almost touch it (if I had ridiculously long arms) it’s beyond appropriate for me to kick off my 2015 reviews right here, right now. But wait – there’s more!
For the first time this year, I decided I wasn’t going to review song after song (after song) all on my lonesome. Not when, thanks to modern technology, I knew I had army of Eurovision fanatics from all over the globe at my disposal. Granted, the recruitment ended with the EBJ Jury mostly being made up of Australians, but…what can I say? Together, we’re large and in charge. Kind of.
The EBJ Jury, in case you were wondering, is the highly imaginative name I came up with to describe the
slaves hard-working fans I duped into helping me out. Each week, a different pair of ESC obsessives (though some faces will appear on a few occasions) will join me to judge five of the songs that will take to the Wiener Stadthalle stage next month. We’ll each award these songs ESC-style points (what else?) and I’ll calculate an average figure that will become that country’s ranking score. It’s all pretty straightforward, though I know I’ve made it seem the opposite.
So, are you up for meeting today’s jurors? I hope so, because here they are!
TODAY’S EBJ JURY
Rory Gannon: “HELL-OHHHHH guys! My name is Rory and I am the beautiful (ish) age of 16. I currently co-run a little blog called ESC Views (where your Eurovision views are brought to you..or are they?!) and…well, I suppose I’m pretty much the definition of a non-conforming Eurovision fan; in other words, if there’s a fanwank *ahem* Sweden *ahem*, I’m sure to hate it! I’ve been to two magnificent Eurovisions – Düsseldorf in 2011 and Malmö in 2013 – I know, jealous much? *wink* Oh, and just so you know, I didn’t cheer for my homeland of Ireland – that really just ain’t my thing! My favourite songs from Eurovision would have to include the AMAYYYYZIN My Słowianie (I know, weird right?!), Ein Lied Kann Eine Brücke Sein aaaaaand……hmm., Birds too. It is quite an odd range, but, myeh, each to their own!”
Matt Kelly: “I’m Matt from Adelaide (or Radelaide, as the locals like to refer to it), Australia. I “star” in a Eurovision show on YouTube called escTMI (I know, I need to get a life). In 2013 I was lucky enough to do the pilgrimage to Malmö to attend my first Eurovision. What a dream it was. This year I’ll be doing that loong flight to Europe again to attend the contest in Vienna.”
Jasmin Bear: “My name is Jasmin, but I’m known in Eurovision circles as ‘Jaz’. I’m guessing you’re somewhat familiar with me as you’re currently reading my blog. Eurovision is my life passion, even if my family and (some of) my friends can’t comprehend that, and I think about it on average six times a minute. I’ve never attended a contest, but you can bet your plagiarized stick-figure man that if Sweden wins in Vienna – and, to be honest, even if they don’t – I’m going in 2016, gosh darn it! My all-time favourite ESC entry is Lane Moje by Željko Joksimovic, as I’m a sucker for a big Balkan ballad, and I truly believe that Sanna Nielsen is angel sent from Eurovision and/or Melodifestivalen heaven…a place I’m very keen to visit in the distant future.”
Now we’re all acquainted, let’s get cracking on EBJ’s 2015 reviews – reviews that are being conducted collaboratively for the first time in my five-and-a-half-year history. Y’all must be so relieved to be getting a break from my solo Eurovisual ramblings.
Ahem. We’ll begin with Russia, and continue with Austria, France, Ireland and Serbia.
A Million Voices by Polina Gagarina
Rory: Ooohh….okay, I’m going to try not to offend anyone if I can, but that might a bit of a mammoth task! So yeah, I’m pretty much neutral on Russia’s song this year. I mean, the song is okay, a tad mediocre if I’m to say something negative about it, but Polina is a great singer. And also, I really don’t agree with the whole booing Russian artists thing – don’t blame Polina, Masha, Nastya or Dima – they didn’t do anything. Join in with Stephane & 3G and blame Putin! Getting back to the actual song here, I’m sure it’ll do well and I hope Polina does do well, but it’s just not the sort of song I would find myself listening to post-Eurovision. 4 points.
Matt: I love an anthem – a song that you can sing along to in the car at the top of your lungs. A Million Voices is an anthem with a beautiful message of peace and acceptance. The video is gorgeous, filled with beautiful, happy children dancing around with Polina. It almost has me believing that everything in the world is hunky-dory. This song would be one my favourites if it was from any country other than Russia. Why does Russia keep sending these anthems of world peace? It’s such a joke and it’s nothing more than propaganda. I know Eurovision is a song contest, and politics shouldn’t come into it, but Polina is representing her country, and the song’s message is totally contradictory to Russian politics. Russia, next year, please think about sending a simple song about love, and maybe people won’t be so upset. Cue the booing. 7 points.
Jaz: Another year, another “inspirational” ballad from Russia about peace, love and understanding, and all that nausea-inducing schmaltz. There’s very little authenticity to this entry, from the cliché lyrics to the fact that few – if any – Russians were involved in writing them (I know a ton of countries search internationally for songs, but that kind of shopping around always rubs me up the wrong way). And yet, the package is partially saved by a) a decent melody; b) a big, instant chorus; and c) Polina’s mesmerising looks and powerful (at least within the walls of a recording studio) voice. So I’m torn. It’s 2015, and this isn’t a song you’d hear outside of Eurovision, unless Celine Dion was performing it during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. That aspect, I dislike. But A Million Voices is the less cheesy cousin of 2013’s What If, which I did end up falling for and which gave Russia a very good result. I’m giving it a conflicted 6 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 5.66
I Am Yours by The Makemakes
Rory: Hmm..I really am quite indifferent to Austria this year. Okay, the song as a standalone would fare very well in terms of being on the radio and trying to promote an album of some sort, but this is a competition we’re talking about here – you either have to make a mark on people’s minds or get out, and Austria aren’t managing to make that happen this year. I hope they do well, purely for the fact that they’re gonna put on a great show, but that’s pretty much it for me. 5 points.
Matt: Austria has sent another attractive bearded singer with flowing locks. The MakeMakes’ song I Am Yours is everything a host country wants: it’s a nice, easy-listening, inoffensive song that won’t come last and definitely won’t win. The song starts off promisingly, evoking thoughts of Coldplay, but you soon realise it’s going nowhere. It’s repetitive and just plain dull. Not even setting the piano on fire can manage to inject interest into the performance. 6 points.
Jaz: Host entries usually fall into one of two categories – either they’re lacklustre as heck because the host country has bigger fish to fry and/or doesn’t want to win again; or they’re epic, presumably by accident when the host country stopped trying too hard to pick a winner because they didn’t have to. I Am Yours, however, is a mixture of the two for me. While I accept that it’s low-key and unlikely to trouble the top of the scoreboard (which for some people, would make it lacklustre) I really enjoy listening to it, and I think it’s an entry Austria should be proud to present to Europe (and Australia) on home soil. The resemblances the chorus bears to Coldplay’s The Scientist might give it a flicker of familiarity that works in its favour come May. The Makemakes make (#hadto) for a very nice, if not ground-breaking, choice to succeed Conchita. 7 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.00
N’oubliez Pas by Lisa Angell
Rory: When I heard this song for the first time, I didn’t quite get it. For me, N’oubliez Pas was just another ballad flower in the meadow. But after listening to it for a few months, I do feel like it has grown on me. It’s a little bit like Riverdance: it starts off really timid and quiet and it grows and grows until you get the dramatic climax at the end of the song. Lisa can deliver the song well live, but I just hope she can manage to repeat it onstage in Vienna – let’s face it, the French need it! 7 points.
Matt: The French entries always seem to cop a lot of flack and I’m not sure why. The good thing is it doesn’t seem to deter them. If something doesn’t work one year, they send something totally different the next. Lisa Angell is a million miles away from 2014’s Twin Twin. Her song is a haunting ballad that’s totally old-school Eurovision. It builds in all the right places and ends with a bang right on the three-minute mark. In a year full of ladies singing ballads, N’oubliez Pas is the most sophisticated – the Chanel of ballads. 7 points.
Jaz: I don’t know how much I have to say about France this year, aside from BRING BACK THE MOUSTACHE! How many adjectives can you employ to describe a rather anonymous, bordering-on-pretty ballad? A ballad that’s competing in a field overgrowing with similar, arguably better songs? This is perfectly acceptable. It plods along nicely, and Lisa performs it like the seasoned professional she is, giving those of us non-fluent in French just enough emotion to realise there’s a story behind the song…even if we’re not 100% on what it is until we Google it. But does it excite me like Twin Twin’s quirky mod-pop did? Nope. Will N’oubliez Pas fare better than last place with two points? Oui, but that means little to me. I’d rather support an entry that floats my boat and watch it fail than see one that makes me feel nothing succeed. 5 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.33
Playing With Numbers by Molly Sterling
Rory: I’m trying not to sound like a patriotic twat, but I swear to god, this normally doesn’t happen! I – for once – love my country’s song! Well, I’d have much preferred Erika instead, but Playing With Numbers was always going to be a close second place. I will admit, the song is a bit of a grower, but with all the recaps that ORF will be showing, surely that little segment will stick in people’s minds! No? Plus, I MET the one and only Molly backstage after she won (that’s right, we’re going up in the world!!) and OMG, guys, she is such a modest person for a 17-year-old. Don’t deny her the chance of showcasing her work to the world! 10 points.
Matt: Molly was my favourite from this year’s Irish selection. She was the most original and talented participant, but I’m not sure Ireland’s best will be good enough, which is a shame as Ireland has had really bad luck in the last couple of years of the contest. The song is nice – think Missy Higgins – but it isn’t interesting enough to stand out from the other, bigger ballads. I think people will listen to this for a minute, then take the opportunity to head to the loo. 5 points.
Jaz: No need to call the doctor, folks – I can tell you right here, right now that what Ireland is suffering from is a classic case of Grower Syndrome. My prescription: repeated listens that, if you’re anything like me, will have you head over heels for Playing With Numbers in no time. The first time I heard this, my brain went ‘meh’, although I was relieved Ireland had selected one of the most decent songs possible. But the more ear-time I gave to Molly’s three minutes, the more I found myself appreciating the sentiment of the song – and thinking ‘Dayum gurl, that chorus is catchy!’. Compare Playing With Numbers to Russia’s song, and it’s clear that Ireland has the authenticity and believable sentiment that Russia lacks. No doubt Molly will struggle to hit Polina’s heights, but if nothing else, I can happily say this: all is forgiven, Ireland, for that aesthetically-displeasing car crash of Copenhagen. 8 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 7.66
Beauty Never Lies by Bojana Stamenov
Rory: I really do like Serbia this year. It was always a sure thing that Bojana was going to represent them – she obviously had the most sass up on that stage! It did seem a bit better in its original Serbian version, but it still has that captivating and empowering message behind it and for that, I’d like to applaud Miss Stabmyknife for her ability to draw us into her performance. I just hope first-time listeners can understand the same feeling on the night! 7 points.
Matt: Oh, a diva singing a huge anthem! Yes please, and thank you Serbia – you rarely disappoint. Bojana Stamenov just blows me away. Her voice is huge. Sure, the English version of the song is a little clichéd and I do prefer the original Serbian version, but it’s brilliantly crafted. It starts out slowly and quietly, then slowly builds, and at the 1:45 mark, the disco beat kicks in and Bojana grabs you by the hand and drags you onto the dance floor. It takes me to Eurovision heaven. Amazing. 10 points.
Jaz: Oh, Serbia. What has become of you? You were once a country who could be relied upon to provide beautiful, mystical and always classy Balkan ballads. Now, after a costume-related disaster and a year of Eurovision vacation (minus JESC) you’ve come back not so much with a bang as with a fart noise. Beauty Never Lies definitely stinks, IMO – not because of Bojana, whose voice, like the Wizard of Oz, is great and powerful. It’s not even due to the song itself, since music-and-melody-wise, it’s fine. But once Ceo Svet Je Moj became Beauty Never Lies, it dropped from the halfway range of my Top 40 ranking to the very bottom. The English rewrite of this song is dreadful, packed with lame lyrics that take power away from the song rather than boosting it. I don’t think a Eurovision song has ever come this close to actually making me vomit before. Shame on you, Serbia. 1 point for the melody + 2 points for Bojana = 3 points.
EBJ Jury Score: 6.66
That’s it for the first episode of Viennese Verdicts, folks. After five catty and complimentary reviews, the EBJ Jury standings are as follows:
1. Ireland (7.66)
2. Serbia (6.66)
3. France (6.33)
4. Austria (6.00)
5. Russia (5.66)
I’ll be revealing the EBJ Jury Top 40 in the final episode, mid-May. For now, 35 songs remain for us to comment on, and any one of them has the potential to sweep Miss Sterling off the top of the list, or bump Polina from the bottom. You’ve already witnessed how different fan opinions can be (Serbia certainly divided us!) so anything could happen.
For Part 2 of the Viennese Verdicts, I’m bringing you my thoughts on the entries from the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Iceland and Switzerland – with the added perspectives of an American Eurovision aficionado, and my mum. Yes, you read that right – Mrs. Jaz was roped into reviewing some of the 2015 competitors. And let me tell you, getting her to be honest was not a problem.
While you’re waiting (on the edge of your seats, I’m sure) for that, answer me this in the comments: how do your rankings of Ireland, Serbia, France, Austria and Russia stack up against the EBJ Jury’s? Who read your mind with their reviews, and who had you concerned for the state of their mental health? Sharing is caring, so let us know below!
Until next time…